Saturday, January 31, 2009
Democracy in the Heart of the Middle East
In the voting room I saw very beautiful women. They were all smiling. They were very very kind as if from heaven. I voted. They said: "Thank you". I said: "thank you" with a smile and went walking. I saw many families walking happy. The father's and mother's index fingers are colored by that ink. I saw him coming. We greeted each other with kisses like Iraqis usually do. I went back with him waiting while he voted. He didn't ask me for whom I voted. Nor I did ask him. We are Iraqis with different views and this is our way to show respect to each other. We went back walking slowly and talking about memories of how our quarter was so beautiful before hoping that it will regain its charm while we were proud of our violet fingers.*
Salam Pax, using Twitter, has given us updates throughout the day. Here is a selection from earlier today:
Polls open now for 7hrs and no news of any violence. Now that's what i call progress.*
is is going very smoothly here in central Baghdad.. almost a non-event, no fear, no worry.. which in itself is remarkable.
Polling stations in Iraq close in two minutes. Could this be our frist incident free elections?
Voting in Iraq ends. No bombs, no deaths.. just people voting. The grumbling about fraud has started but, hey, it's all been violence free!
These were local council elections, John, it was all about security, rebuilding, jobs, etc. Obama didn't get mentionned much
No matter who wins in these elections.. Iraqis were able to vote peacefully and that's a big deal
Caesar of Pentra describes his day and trip to the voting booth (2009 Provincial Elections).
[I]t's 6:09 pm Baghdad local time. The voting is over. Luckily, no serious accident has been registered. Again, Everyone honest and wants to serve Iraq and intends to bulid Iraq to be a powerful and prosper country, I wish them all the success to achieve that goal.*
A LOOK BACK TO 2002: Saddam Hussein Wins One-Man Race (CBS)
Iraq declared Saddam Hussein the winner Wednesday - by an 11 million-to-0 margin - in a war-shadowed referendum on his two-decade military rule, sending celebratory gunfire crackling from the streets and rooftops of Baghdad.*
The 100 percent turnout, 100 percent 'yes' vote shows all Iraqis are poised to defend Saddam against American forces, the country's No. 2 man said.
"If they come, we will fight them in every village, and every house," said Izzat Ibrahim, vice chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, announcing results on what Iraq billed as a people's referendum on keeping Saddam in power another seven years.
Once More Into The Breach of Democracy, Dear Friends
A long time ago, in the dark days when Omar of Twenty Four Steps to Liberty was hoping to publicly hang 1000 insurgents and install a new strongman in Iraq (2006, will look for the post), I gave him the solemn advice to hold his nose and back the current government. This was NOT a popular idea with him at the time.
Anyway, now that the dust and debris are beginning to clear in Iraq, I have a little vote of my own for today:
Saturday, January 24, 2009
As Much Democracy As You Can Handle
"My friends, religion has no place in politics. No place! If we want democracy, true democracy, then we let everyone freely practice their religion at home, while the country is run by educated, unbiased individuals."*
"We need to take down the concrete barriers. Qabeehat. (ugly)"
An old man replies quietly: "Like you then." No one else heard comment.
I choke supressing laughter.
Mohammed (Last of Iraqis) is one of those guys who, after a week of rain, would complain on the day the weather cleared because the brightness of the sun made him squint. So you can just imagine his interpretation of campaign politics inside Iraq ("Let's talk about candidates and elections"):
Thousands of people have became candidates, men and women who we never heard of, who have done nothing to Iraq, who haven't participated in any political, humanitarian or social events…wherever you go in Baghdad you would see big posters occupying every inch of every wall or concrete block with a photo (mostly) of an ugly person with an evil look in his eyes and a catchy slogan, more empty shells which if wanted to be filled it will be filled with the love of money, hatred to others and corruption and the last thing to care about is the good of Iraq and Iraqis….like the Shahristani (oil minister) with his recent techniques to satisfy his masters in Iran when he blocked the support of the black oil to the Iraqi bricks companies which lead to the absence of bricks in the market and that's when the Iranian brick companies saved the situation and started exporting their bricks to Iraq and fill the markets with!!! OH, thank you Iran for saving us, what a disgusting situation.Yeah, what gives the right of these little people no one has ever heard of to run for office in Iraq?
Salam Pax is back in Baghdad, reporting on what he found at Sistani's website:
What is interesting is in his advice for us on how to choose the best candidate to vote for. He doesn’t mention the need for the candidate to be a devout Muslim – shock horror – more important for al-Sistani is the candidate’s honesty and ability to serve the people.*
He might be a beardy Ayatullah and all but, I tell you, given half a chance al-Sistani can be a cool beardy Ayatullah.
What if you BUILT A SHRINE BUT NO ONE CAME?
Obama shrines unattended?
Say it ain't so!
///Rhuslancia, shouldn't you change your chant from Praise Obama! to Remainder Obama!?
UPDATE: How is Iraq doing these days? Check out C.H.'s fine interview with Eye-Raki (Hayder Al-Khoei), who recently returned to Iraq for a visit.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Hey, Hey, What Can You Say...
LOL, I’m thinking of starting an Internet petition to have you
rename this blog, Last Of The Gay Iraqis. Ha ha ha ha ha.
Mister Ghost to Salam Pax
...The self-promoting Michael Yon reminds me of Raed Jarrar - always threatening with the lawsuits... Frankly the embedded reporters in Iraq, did not impress me. It was after all, a very synthetic environment they operated in. Unembedded, as with Steven Vincent, Sunshine of Mosul, and Queen Amidala reporting right straight from the Heart of Darkness, their coverage was worth reading.
...Speaking of Sunshine, is she not the Taylor Swift of Iraq? A fast-rising, young prodigy whose words cut across all barriers and resonate with an American and worldwide audience? Most definitely so. Here's the great Taylor singing one of my recent favorites, Our Song...
...What's the worse thing that can occur to you in the Religious Apartheid Kingdom of the Saud? Work as a Filipino houseboy with all those repressed homosexual Saudi men trying to paw you and more? That's a pretty bad state of being. Perhaps, be one of the millions of frustrated Saudi woman, who are not allowed to drive, and who decides to say, "Bleep it" to the rules, and takes the car out for a spin. Which results in the death of a couple of people, because the woman had no experience, and wearing an abbaya while driving is an accident waiting to happen. That indeed is pretty awful. And then there's Hamoud bin Saleh, a Saudi blogger who converted to Christianity and announced it on his blog Saudi Christian. The Saudi authorities did not find this amusing at all. They arrested Hamoud, blocked his blog inside the Tragic Kingdom, and jailed the young blogger at the infamous Eleisha political prison in Riyadh, a prison which in 2004 witnessed the arrest of the reformists Matrouk el Falih, Ali el Domini and Eissa al Hamed. Now, with the world's attention focused on Gaza, he may suffer a fatal work related accident inside the gaol.
... Free Boy George, Free Boy George, LOL ala Free Mumia. Well, here's the Boy at his pre-handcuffs best with The Crying Game...
...Barack Obama's ascension to the Presidency has really lowered the bar as far as future American leaders are concerned. Now, you can do coke, attend a racist church for twenty years, hang out with terrorists, emerge out of one of the most corrupt political systems in the world, conceal your medical records, promise anything and everything to one and all, engage in campaign contribution fraud, be fawned over by the press... the list of flaws and fallacies is breathtaking.
...For all you Muntadhar al-Zeidi haters (you know who you are), LOL, some of his prison guards threw a party for his 30th birthday and brought him a birthday cake. I wonder if his cake had 30 candles and he could make a wish? Now, that would have never happened during Saddam's time. But, seriously, Maliki should just pardon the guy and let it be an amusing end to President Bailouts' tenure.
...If you're curious as to how American journalists are reacting to the economic crisis, closures, and management machinations affecting many of the nation's print media, be sure to check out Angry Journalists.com for some spirited angst.
...The big story in the Middle East: No, not the Israel-Hamas War, but the condition of Hamas TV's Pioneers of Tomorrow show Giant Jew-Eating Bunny, Assud. It's a cliffhanger folks, as to whether Assud will live or die, although personally, I was more a fan of Nahoul the Jew-hating bee, who expired in a Gaza hospital, the victim of an Israeli Fly-Swatter Missile. Here is, what may or may not be, Assud's final moments...
Friday, January 16, 2009
Return of the Baghdad Blogger
About three years ago while making a film for Newsnight I was filming an Iraqi army manned checkpoint. They didn’t mind me filming but they all put on something to cover their faces, balaclavas or scarves with dark sunglasses, just anything that would conceal their identity. The soldiers I talked to told me how they would never leave their homes wearing uniforms. The uniform is taken out of the house in a plastic bag until they are out of their neighbourhoods.On his Twitter account, Salam sums up his Friday in Baghdad:
Not today. There are more checkpoints than before. Every bridge has at least one at each end. There are checkpoints in and out of many districts and Iraqi police and army control all of them. And not a single balaclava in sight and none of the anxiety and nervousness you used to feel before.
Fun day in Baghdad = Lunch at a nice restaurant, a drive through the city, a family b-day gathering and later drinks @home.*
As another measure of increased stability, Iraq Pundit notes that Iraqis are buying cars faster than they can be imported, citing a LAT article on the subject. This optimism has also been corroborated by Iraqis that Iraq Pundit has kept in touch with (Developments in Iraq):
While nobody's reporting that all's well in Iraq, improvements are undeniable. In my own social circle some of the most anti-American, anti-invasion professionals have returned to Baghdad. They had left in 2003, and now they're back in Baghdad to help return the country to normal.*
Iraqis are looking forward to voting at the end of the month. Many more now understand the importance of the elections, vowing never to boycott the vote ever again.
UPDATE: While Salam Pax rides around Baghdad, Touta spends the afternoon with her family going to a restaurant and shopping. She too, like Salam, notes the signs of hope in Baghdad (Silent Secrets of a blossoming Baghdad).
First of all, I have to admit, there has not been one day where i have been happy with electricity/water/safety in Baghdad. But you have a distinct feeling that things will improve. You see people smiling at each other now. Shopkeepers sing rather than cry over the loss of someone, or complain about the masked men.
A million fairy lights illuminate the dark that once was. The generators hum a melodious tune in the background. Now when the generators run out of benzin, or the electricity is turned off, instead of the curses and prayers, candles float around flickering as everyone patiently waits while cracking jokes.
Its friday, and there are no traffic!! Correction:less traffic. On the way back, I walked out the car and wandered while the queue did not move. I sat in the front seat, and others got dizzy as I constantly turned to try to take everything in. Cars are suddenly new and shiny. Oh, and new types of hummer have been brought into that shop. People buy them and bounce through the streets with Eminem blaring toy soldiers or some other song. Also, another improvement, I see more girls. They walk around in groups smilling and stopping at juice parlours.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Salam Pax Twittering Back to Baghdad
Guardian/G2 want 2k words on why I'm going back to Baghdad.. all I can think of is 'I miss the mad spiralling decent into Baghs airport' 5:37 AM Jan 11th from twitterrific*
UPDATE: Salam Pax has just published a piece at the Guardian:
"I want Baghdad to feel like home again."
Salam's friend Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (G. in Baghdad for the old-timers) has continued to write for the Guardian and recently published an article describing a visit to Iran as someone who grew up during the Iran-Iraq War (Brothers in Arms).
One day I stood with my father in downtown Baghdad, watching a parade of Iraqi military trucks packed with Iranian prisoners of war pass by. I didn't feel sorry for the defeated men in tattered, khaki uniforms and shaved heads. I was just scared of them. A few years later, the TV broadcast similar images of broken, khaki-clad soldiers, squatting in the desert with their hands tied behind them - this time, however, they were the defeated Iraqi armies.*
Our state propaganda machine portrayed the Iranians as cowards, evil creatures, "the worms of the earth". The Iraqis, we were told, were fighting another glorious battle against the Persians, just as the early Muslims had done in the seventh century.
It was this religious imagery, and those pictures of defeated men, that filled my head when I went to Tehran this autumn, some 20 years after that war, and I soon came to realise that the same religious symbols, sometimes even the same verses of the Qur'an, were used in the same way on the other side of the border.
Meanwhile, Anarki-13 reports on his new life in Sweden (Ahem!):
Leisure: hmm. well, me myself its enough to go walk around Stockholm :) I've been to a couple of parties as well, Arabs and Swedes.*
the weather fits me to a tee. almost always freezing my ass off, which i like! even in the hottest day of Summer it didnt peak much above 30. in winter its 3 o'clock and its already dark! i LOVE IT! cant say enough good things about it! (most Iraqi, having a disposition towards warmer climate, would like no less than to strangle me with my own intestines for saying this about the weather. So many are as depressed as hammered shit)
oh and i started training again, it costs an arm and a leg, but it is worth it! next week is the end-course grading exam, so i should probably prepare for it, i guess.
Music, Movies, and Books: Dark, Dark, and Dark! One day something just clicked inside my head and i started listening to Slayer again, and i have no regrets!
Movies: many, not ALL are dark, i LOVED "Enchanted" (yeah, i did) and liked "Hellboy 2" much more than the overhyped "Dark Knight"
i still refuse to take Batman seriously before he starts using guns.
martial arts my ASS, i am a martial artist. and i say guns win, EVERY TIME.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
In Which I Weigh in on Israel & Palestine
So, I try to avoid thinking too much about events over there. It just s*cks, nothing I can do about it. I do think that long term, some kind of Palestinian state is needed to peel the moderates from both sides away from the extremists from both sides. That may stem the violence eventually, but there is certainly enough excess hate in the area so that a rational solution is impossible in my lifetime at least.
Anyway, the current conflict between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hate And Murder All Subhuman joos (HAMAS) allowed me to enumerate in my mind something I have known for quite some time:
1. Israel, with its modern military, sophisticated weapons, and even nuclear bombs, has the capability to turn its many enemies' territories into glass, but is not inclined to do so.
2. HAMAS, and by extension other violent opponents of Israel, with their Katyushas, homicide bombers, and desire to cause and politically leverage Palestinian civilian casualties, do not have the capability to do much damage to Israel, but would turn it into glass if only they could.
I understand that we in the self-doubting West do like to cheer for the "underdog" or the scrappy rebels "fighting for freedom", but it's still strange to see people protesting on behalf of people who aspire to be mass murderers, if only they had the capability, or allowing themselves to become useful idiots in HAMAS' efforts to leverage the only potentially effective tactic they have- international outrage.
Mark Steyn, in this article, points out some of the underlying joo-hatred that may be in play, and makes an interesting observation regarding Israel's founding:
So, as I said, forget Gaza. And instead ponder the reaction to Gaza in Scandinavia, France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and golly, even Florida. As the delegitimization of Israel has metastasized, we are assured that criticism of the Jewish state is not the same as anti-Semitism. We are further assured that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism, which is a wee bit more of a stretch. Only Israel attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence. For the purposes of comparison, let’s take a state that came into existence at the exact same time as the Zionist Entity, and involved far bloodier population displacements. I happen to think the creation of Pakistan was the greatest failure of post-war British imperial policy. But the fact is that Pakistan exists, and if I were to launch a movement of anti-Pakism it would get pretty short shrift.So I will not hold my breath for any kind of a workable solution to come from the latest chapter in the awfully thick book that describes this conflict.
You know what I'd like to see though? A Sons of Palestine movement. Of course I'm dreaming. But couldn't you see a situation where some Palestinian guy looks out his window and sees HAMAS setting up a Katyusha battery and says "Hey dummies! Don't do that here! Or better yet, don't do it at all! If you manage to kill anyone with your random rocket fire, it will likely be civilians. That is probably wrong, and bad. Plus, you are more likely to cause Israel to return fire, which endangers me and my family!"
Unfortunately, for the moment it is precisely that response that HAMAS hopes to garner, and the Palestinians killed as a result are just welcome tools towards their objective. The day when such acts are no longer tolerated by locals or the world community seems far off. Nothing for me to do but,
Friday, January 09, 2009
Reading Resolution 1859
Today, over at Iraq the Model, Omar and Mohammed Fadhil examine what Resolution 1859 means for Iraqis (New Iraq Emerges from Tyranny and War):
Domestically, the resolution is a blow dealt to all those nostalgic for the totalitarian past. Those people had exhausted their lungs screaming and rallying against a security agreement with the United States. The voice that prevailed at the end was that of Iraq’s elected parliament in choosing to open a new era of cooperation and mutual respect between Iraq and the nation that liberated it from tyranny, and continues to protect its interests as we speak.They also look squarely at those who have always wanted Iraq to fail, noting that many of them are the same people who championed the guy who threw his shoes at President Bush.
Whereas Arab nationalists and Islamist extremists ended up with a pair of shoes, Iraqis ended up with their sovereignty, democracy, and friendship with the United States. Those hypocrites did not lift a finger to help Iraq at a time of hardship. On the contrary, they used all the means they could muster to bring democratization in Iraq and the Middle East to a halt. But despite the vicious attacks, Iraq and the United States moved hand in hand to overcome the countless obstacles and present the model of reform and democracy that is taking shape with every dispute Iraqis resolve in the parliament and every new brick they lay in a new building.Many obstacles have indeed been overcome. Surely there will be a few more, but the future for Iraq is now brighter than it has been in some time.
Meanwhile Shaggy is back on the farm and about to transfer this year's rice crop to the government silos (Tassweek Time Coming Up). Before that, he had a week or so vacation in Baghdad, where he was able to buy a bag of mediocre weed. For the old-timers, you know that Nahida is always snooping around at Shaggy's place in Baghdad. Yep, she caught him blasting in his room:
The only bad thing about getting high at home was that I was often paranoid that Nahida was going to catch me and make a big deal out of it. She did catch me, she walked into my room just after I had finished blazing one and she picked up all the roaches that I had poorly hid on the window sill. Thankfully she did not make a big deal out of it. Maybe she did appreciate how stressed out I was as Od had suggested to me.That Nahida is a hawk.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
That Great "Arab Hero" ... um ... What's His Name?
No, we don't.
But if you're interested in learning about those who are the silent heroes of Iraq, you can still find them in the blogosphere. Spend the day, for example, with Sami, a psychiatrist currently living in Baghdad who has been on our blogroll for a long time. In one of his latest entries, "Happy Poetic Hair Cut," you will learn more about the daily life in Iraq than you ever will from the journalist whose name we can no longer remember.
I went for my hair cut in Al Rasheed street. From all the barber shops in Baghdad I chose a classic one. It was the barber shop of the Beatles fans in the 70s as one colleague said to me one day in 2006. I went there once and found 4 men above 50 running the shop. They are calm, slow, and silent. There are always some old Arabic songs played on their TV screen. Um Kalthum songs are the most common. I cannot change them now. All of them had cut my hair at least once. But sooner me and him, the third chair one, knew that I should always come and sit in his chair cause he will know what I want without talking. The other three men know that I will wait my turn to have a hair cut in that third chair. The price of the hair cut is the lowest in Baghdad in their wonderful shop. They don't start talking at all, but if you talk they would talk with you for a while seriously and kindly. Then they will go back to their silence waiting for you if wanna talk again. Sometimes they are visited by a friend of them when they will start talking spontaneously with him a little. Their friends always don't stay too long.After his haircut, Sami strolls over to Al Mutanabbee Street, the booksellers' street that had been bombed by the terrorists two years ago. Check out his photos too.
UPDATE: Raed Jarrar received an out-of-court settlement of $240,000 in his ACLU T-shirt case. This is PC gone wild. My only solace so far has been to read all the comments over at Breitbart of those who are as outraged and sickened by this outcome as I am.
Thanks to H. Bush for alerting me.
UPDATE II: So how did Raed do it?
It all started back in 2003 when Raed Jarrar started working with all the anti-war groups that had gone to Iraq, making connections that he would use once he arrived in the US two years later through his greencard marriage to Niki Akhavan. Within the first couple weeks in the Bay Area, he was out at San Quentin protesting the murderer Tookie's execution (just like he would protest his dear leader Saddam's capture, trial, and execution). And not long after that he was on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now and marching along with Hollywood liberals like Susan Sarandon and leftards like Code Pink, passing himself off as an "Iraqi expert." His little black book must have been almost full by then, perfect for his next move.
Having already made links to the ACLU, on a flight from New York to San Francisco, he put on a black T-shirt saying "We will not be silent" in Arabic (and English) and wore it into a waiting area at JFK Airport. Judging by the testimonies, he glared at anyone who happened to glance at his T-shirt (it doesn't help that Raed Jarrar looks like a classic ISLAMIC TERRORIST). Of course, the people in the waiting area started to freak, not wanting to die as those on 9/11 did. All of this was part of Raed's master plan. Always the attention whore, he knew that by taunting the people in the waiting room, he would either get some good publicity or maybe even wangle a lawsuit. Customers in the waiting room sought out someone from Jet Blue and told them that they were nervous about the guy was glaring at everyone in the lounge. A representative from Jet Blue and the TSA approached Raed and asked him if he wouldn't mind changing his shirt. Now everything was working perfectly for Raed. Of course, he refused and said that his "free speech" rights were being abridged. A compromise was reached when Raed agreed to wear another T-shirt on top of the "We will not be silent" T-shirt.
As soon as Raed landed back in San Francisco, he went directly to his little black book, contacted the ACLU and began working with on litigation. He also called as many media outlets as possible to set up interviews with them, quickly appearing on Democracy Now. It was a win-win situation for Raed. Through his ACLU connections, the lawsuit was filed. And here's the SHAKEDOWN, the ACLU-style extortion. Because it would cost Jet Blue and the TSA more money to pay for a complete trial, they decided to just settle for as little as possible, that being the $245,000 that the ACLU accepted for Raed. It's a HUGE FUCKING SCAM.
All of the Jarrars are now emboldened by this travesty. Khalid writes today to me:
Jeffery, if you had any balls at all, you would post here your personal contact information or your lawyer's information and you will hear from us. its fun to keep suing idiots and making money out of them :) in case you havent heard, we just did recently:
but i dont think you have any balls at all, do you?!
Democracy is fun after all :D
More than anyone else, I blame Niki Akhavan for bringing Raed Jarrar into our country.
[From CMAR II] See RAED & CMAR II: A Correspondence in which Raed attempts to gain CMAR II's personal information in order to launch a nuisance suit.
And here's the ULTIMATE KICKER:
UNDER SADDAM HUSSEIN ALL OF THE JARRARS WERE SILENT.
Would Raed Jarrar have EVER worn a T-shirt saying "We will not be silent" during Saddam Hussein's reign of terror?
UPDATE III: I thought it would help everyone to have TigerHawk's two analyses of the ACLU T-shirt case available again:
The ACLU sues JetBlue on behalf of a passenger who happens to be an Arab (August 11, 2007).
Lawfare against domestic vigilence: The Jarrar case (Jan 6, 2009).